European low-cost carrier, Norwegian, has confirmed it will use its new Boeing 737MAX airliners to enhance its long-haul offering across the Atlantic alongside replacing it current Next-Generation 737 models and to grow its short-haul network from its increasing number of European bases.
In a letter to the US Secretary of Transportation, Honorable Anthony Foxx, requesting a decision on Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit without further delay, the Nordic carrier’s chief executive officer, Bjorn Kjos, revealed plans for the carrier to significantly grow its operations in the US market to help fulfil President Obama’s goal of creating hundreds of thousands of new American jobs in the tourism industry by increasing the number of annual visitors to the US by millions.
Norwegian Air International made its initial application for a foreign carrier permit in 2013 but its application has been pending for more than 15 months, the longest ever processing time for such an application. The delay is linked to opposition from certain air carriers in the US and labour groups who have suggested the Department of Transportation (DOT) should deny the application.
While awaiting a verdict, Norwegian has continued to grow its activities in the US and opened two crew bases in New York and Fort Lauderdale. It recently announced plans to add Las Vegas, San Juan (Puerto Rico) and St Croix (US Virgin Islands) to its network later this year and according to Kjos is preparing to develop a third crew base in either Los Angeles or San Francisco to support its West Coast flights.
“Allowing Norwegian Air International to fly will, without a shred of doubt, increase European tourism to the US. Based upon our company’s current operation and our committed Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet expansion plan, we expect to have carried more than 14 million passengers on our US – Europe network by 2020,” said Kjos.
However, it is his words relating to Norwegian’s 737MAX order that could bring the most significant network opportunity between Europe and the US for many years. The airline is the European launch customer for the new generation airline family and has committed to acquire 100 aircraft as part of a January 2012 deal which was the biggest ever single order placed in Europe for Boeing equipment, valued at $11.4 billion at list prices.
There were suggestions at the time that the enhanced performance of the successor of the current production Next-Generation 737 family would permit their efficient operation on Transatlantic city pairs, but Kjos has now confirmed in his letter to the US Secretary of Transportation that such deployment of the aircraft is firmly in the minds of the carrier’s network team.
“In 2017 we, as the European launch customer of Boeing, start taking deliveries of the new 737MAX, then additional routes to the East Coast of the US will be launched, offering direct transatlantic connections to new smaller cities and communities on both sides of the Atlantic carrying additional millions of passengers per year between the two continents,” he said.
“To properly evaluate the impact this will have on the tourism industry, keep in mind that these are essentially new passengers, new tourists, ordinary working citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, people that previously could not indulge in the ‘luxury’ of Transatlantic travel, that now finally can make that ‘once in a lifetime’ trip come true, and realise that they can afford to come back next year,” he added.
The new 737MAX family build on the Next-Generation 737’s popularity and reliability, retaining operational commonality while delivering a new level of fuel efficiency for single-aisle airliners. The type will have the capability to fly more than 3,500 nautical miles (6,482 kilometers), an increase of 405 to 580 nautical miles (750 to 1,074 kilometres) over the Next-Generation 737 and will enable destinations such as Boston, New York and Washington to be served efficiently from airports across the UK, France, Spain and Portugal.